Saturday, June 23, 2012

On Naturopathy: Timothy Caulfield's ISBN 0807022055 978-0807022054

here, I quote from and comment upon a recent book regarding its take on naturopathy:

001. Timothy Caulfield writes  "The Cure for Everything: Untangling Twisted Messages About Health, Fitness, and Happiness" (ISBN 0807022055 978-0807022054; 2012)[my comments are in unquoted bold, the hardcover edition was a mere $17 recently at Amazon.com; the Vancouver Sun has a review up too]:

"naturopathy has a long history. It emerged out of the nature-cures movement that thrived throughout Europe in the 1800s. A dominant figure in this movement was a German, Sebastian Kneipp, who believed that a kind of water therapy-basically cold baths, hot baths, and 'gushes' or blasts of water from a watering can or hose-had cured him of an ailment he had acquired by studying too hard for the priesthood. He was run-down from his priestly exertions, and the water cure brought back his vitality [p.136...]";

I think people forget just how young medicine specifically informed from science is.  The 1800s not only had a lot of new religious movements spring up, but a lot of weird ideas about diseases and their treatment.   Even in 1998-2000, when I was early on in naturopathy school, there was a hydrotherapy class whose claims I thought were mostly absurd.

"naturopathy is not a particular treatment modality [...] it is not a constellation of treatments that focus on a particular ailment or a specific part of the body [...] nor is it a systematic and testable approach to understanding human biology and the disease process, like, well, science. Naturopathy is, rather, a worldview. It is a philosophical approach to health and as a result can include the use of any remedy that falls within the belief system. While naturopathy has evolved since the days of Lust, the basic tenets remain the same [...]";

so, here we are reminded naturopathy isn't science!  Overall, at its core, I agree.  Its philosophical claims are actually antiscientific and pseudoscientific, in my view.  The belief system's basic tenets can be found at the oldest school in North America, NCNM.  This is where they say science-exterior content survives scientific scrutiny.  The false label that the AANP Alliance used to describe naturopathy is archived c1999 here, "naturopathic physicians are the modern day science based primary care doctor. [...] naturopathic medicine is not a technique but a way of life. It is not a belief system."  It is a nonscientific belief system, at its core.

"at its core, and as implied by the name, naturopathy is largely focused on the healing powers of nature [aka] vis medicatrix naturae and a belief in the inherent self-healing powers of the human body. Lust and his followers took these beliefs to the extreme, eschewing anything that could he viewed as an unnatural contaminant [...] the movement that gave rise to its birth - the European nature-cures trend - was largely founded on a belief in an amorphous vital force present in all living things [...] this unwavering faith in the powers of the vital life force found in nature is a nice enough idea, but it’s one without any scientific foundation [...] the naturopath philosophy, in particular, the belief in a vital life force and the healing power of nature [...]";

agreed. Now if you notice from NCNM's page, the vital force IS the healing power of nature.  They state "in fact [...] nature heals through the response of the life force."

"naturopathy is not, at its core, either scientifically informed or evidence based. Naturopaths offer some sensible advice -- eat well, get lots of sleep, and exercise -- but this does not make naturopathy evidenced based. These practices are recommended because they align with naturopathic philosophy, not because they have satisfied some rigorous, scientific, naturopathy-led inquiry into their value [...]";

oh snap, agreed again.

"James Whorton, professor emeritus at the University of Washington School of Medicine [...states] 'there is understandable suspicion [held by those in the scientific community] that naturopaths are under a philosophical constraint,' Whorton told me. 'Are naturopaths so wedded to a nature-cures approach that there is an uncritical acceptance of any remedy that accords with this worldview? This seems likely.  This philosophy prejudices and twists the evidence. If the scientific research tells us that a remedy does not work, will the philosophy allow the naturopath to see the reality of the situation?' If one looks at the types of remedies currently provided by naturopaths, the answer to this question must be a resounding no [...]";

wow.  Agreed as well.

"naturopathic medicine [...] the practice remains, at its core, based on a nonscientific philosophy [...yet] they want the legitimacy, mainstream acceptance, and prestige that comes from a perceived science-based approach to health [...] but they must also continue the embrace a defining philosophical framework. As noted by Whorton, it is very difficult to be both evidence based and tied to a mystical philosophy [...and] the philosophy is paramount [...] and what if science does not advance naturopathic medicine? It gets ignored [...]";

yep.

"in 2009 [...] I wrote a commentary with a few colleagues for the Vancouver Sun. We cautioned against expanding the legal scope of practice for naturopaths and we pushed for an evidence-based approach to health-care decisions [...] the head of the British Columbia Naturopathic Association called our article 'misinformation of the worst kind.' He wrote: 'the science behind naturopathic medicine is substantiated by voluminous research conducted by independent, third-party medical experts. In fact, the science behind naturopathic and standard medicine is not different; it is the philosophy behind the application of that science that differentiates naturopathic doctors NDs and medical doctors.' The claim that naturopathic medicine is substantiated by the kind of research he describes is false. Regarding the rest of his statement, it’s hard to argue with the proposition that it is the philosophy behind naturopathy that distinguishes it from more science-based approaches. This is my point."

and a fine point it is. I remember reading the exchange.  A major study published in 2011 by Caulfield et al. was reported upon by Canada's National Post in a piece titled "Alternative Medicine 'Unscientific' Study Warns."

002. regarding constricting philosophies, from Popular Science Monthly c1890:

"sectarian teaching begins when you ask a man or a child to assume what can not be proved, for the sake of keeping within the dogmatic lines that fence round some particular creed."

sounds like naturopathy to me. 
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